Monday, April 4, 2011

He Didn't Give Up

There has been far too much happening lately for me to write; some good, some bad, some ugly, some scary, and some beautiful.

If there is one moment I want to capture of the last two weeks, it was Nic crossing the finish line of the 400 yesterday.

Nic's track coach is wonderful. He is a truly decent man who doesn't mind coaching anyone who has an interest in running. And there is something about him that Nic identifies with, because he does want to do his best for Coach S, even though he understands what he's up against.

Simply put, the rest of the kids have been doing this for years. They are all fast, or at any rate, faster than Nic. They do their best to help Nic keep up, but they break away. Consequently, I run with Nic, so he doesn't get too discouraged. That's been working out well, and Coach doesn't object.

Actually, if I didn't run with Nic, I know he would drop out from sheer disappointment that he is not as fast as the other kids. I want him to run, not because I think he'll be a champion runner, but because it's good exercise, and I think it'll help him start making wiser food choices at some point.

And I run because I need the exercise, and I find that I enjoy it.

So, Coach did a few extra drills with Nic, and made a deal for Nic to run a 400 for him by the end of the season.

Well, yesterday was the first opportunity. And although Nic balked, I convinced him to run it.

"But I won't win," he said. "I'm so slow."

"It doesn't matter," I replied. "Whatever you do today will be your time to beat next race."

So when they called the novice 400 runners to the field, I walked down with Nic to the staging area. Coach glanced over, did a double-take, and trotted over.

"You make it to the 200, I will take it home with you, okay?" Coach asked Nic.

"Okay," Nic nodded and extended his hand so they could shake on it. Coach gave me thumbs up and a wink.

Nic talked to the other two boys who would run with him. I told one of them to assure Nic that this wouldn't kill him. He laughed and obliged. Nic watched the other runners and glanced at me nervously. I knew what he was thinking. He didn't want to start the race and not be able to finish it. Especially with all these people watching.

"You can do this," I told him repeatedly. "I wouldn't tell you that if I didn't believe it."

He nodded, shifted his feet, did some stretches.

His was the last heat. I pointed to the faded hash marks that marked his starting point and wished him luck. He nodded, then turned to look at the starter.

He bolted at the sound of the pistol, and for the first 150 meters kept up with two of the boys in his heat (the third was way ahead, but that's a whole other story). He started dropping back.

"Come on, Nic" I shouted. "You can do it!"

Coach S met Nic at the 200 mark and ran with him. About two thirds of his way around, the other boys had already crossed the line.

Then something amazing happened.

Every one on the field was watching Nic and chanting, "Go! Go! Go!" Coach dropped off and let Nic run the last 100 himself, to the thunderous enthusiasm of the crowd. I stood in his lane and shouted, "You got it! Run it in!"

The place erupted in cheers as Nic crossed the line at 2 minutes and 28 seconds.

He was nearly in tears running those last few meters, but hearing the applause and cheers made him smile. And he could scarcely believe he did it.

"I didn't give up, mom," he said proudly. "I wanted to, but I didn't."

Coach S trotted up, high-fived Nic and praised him. "And you will only get faster, every time you do this."

Nic beamed.

"You will do this again, right?" I asked. "Because you just proved you can do it."

So I will print the picture below, and frame it for him, and hope that no matter how tough life gets, no matter how lonely his struggles are, that there was one moment in his life where he struggled, people cheered him on...

...and he prevailed.

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